Of the over 200 bones in the human body, 22 are in the head and face. The mandible bone, or lower jawbone, is the only movable bone in the face and is connected to the temporal bone at two points, just in front of each ear. While there may be many bones in the head, it is the hinged temporomandibular joint (TMJ), that has a lot to answer for when it comes to the jaw, face, or even headache pain.
While the causes of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) are elusive, the symptoms can’t be denied. Pain, tenderness in the face, jaw area, neck or shoulders is common. Clicking or popping of the jaw when you open your mouth or chew is another sign. Toothaches, earaches, headaches or swelling of the face may all indicate TMD.
Prevention is key to avoiding or controlling the painful side effects of TMD. Let’s have a look at a few, simple ways to keep you feeling healthy and pain-free!
Keep Clenching in Check
It is believed that grinding or clenching your teeth, which puts pressure on the jawbone joint or TMJ is a cause of TMD. Be aware when you are clenching your teeth or biting down too forcefully. Remember the saying, “lips together, teeth apart” and practice this useful trick every day.
Clenching teeth at night, while you sleep, can happen without you even knowing it. Come in to visit us for a check up and see about getting professionally fitted for a custom night guard for extra protection. A custom night guard is a proven way to prevent TMD and the damage it can do to the teeth, mouth, and jaw.
Cultivate the Calm
If your body or mind is overworked or stressed, chances are your jaw and mouth is also strained. For example, when you’re driving with your hands holding tight to the steering wheel, you are probably also holding your jaw too tight and straining your facial muscles.
Begin to practice ways to calm your mind or consider taking up exercise or yoga that may help you relax. Consider your sleep position to ensure reduced stress on the jaw and improved rest. Try sleeping on your back and using a good supporting pillow to minimize strain on the jaw and neck. Techniques to manage your stress and help your muscles relax offer many benefits for your overall wellbeing.
Safeguard the Jaw
The snacks you eat and the way you sit can also effect and wear down your jaw and joints. Avoid chewing gum or ice and give up that nail biting habit! Even chewing on pencils or pens and resting your jaw on your hands can have consequences in misaligning your jaw.
Be aware when you are about to eat chewy foods, like taffy or popcorn, and choose a softer option. Practice eating on both sides of your mouth and work on holding your phone to your ear and not letting it rest between your head and shoulder. Even treating your jaw, cheeks, and temples to a regular, quick massage can help ease pain and reduce tension!
If you are prone to a high-stress lifestyle, are concerned you may grind your teeth at night, or are suffering from any TMD symptoms, make an appointment to see us! We can help identify any issues and offer treatments or solutions that will help you feeling better in no time.